Shoemaker John Wildsmith said “you are either in your bed or in your shoes, so it pays to invest in both” and with the amount of work our feet do for us, we’re wise to look after them. But then, different occasions call for different styles; sliders are great on a lazy Sunday morning, not so great at your sister’s wedding. The good news is that with the ever-increasing affordability of footwear, building your collection of wardrobe essentials has never been more doable. Step right this way as we walk you through the 7 types of shoe every man should own.
Loafers are Scandinavian in origin, having been inspired by the straps of leather worn by fishermen while they worked. Today, the humble men’s loafer has become one of the most fashionable shoes on the streets of London and Paris. Comfortable enough to be worn without socks, loafers are the epitome of smart-casual. They’re great summer wear, and also present a good opportunity to get a bit of a change in your colour palette. Burgundy can work really well on a loafer and can really brighten up an outfit, but they also look great in the classic black and tan. Take a look at the classic penny loafer as your starting point.
Chelsea boots are cool; it’s as simple as that. Whether you take your reference from Mod culture or the musicians of the swinging 60s, they are a unique, fun and slick style to have at your disposal. Men’s Chelsea boots are slim round the ankles so they work really well with skinny fit jeans, narrow chinos and even tailored suits. They’re also surprisingly comfortable so you may find yourself wearing them more often than you thought you would. The’re particularly good shoe for cooler days in spring and autumn.
The classic men’s brogue with its patterns and holes is a style that remains consistently popular. But did you know that those holes were originally there to help drain water from shoes sodden from the bogs and swamps of Ireland? That’s right, the brogue was once a working shoe! Although today’s brogues are more likely to carry us to and from the office, a link still remains to their soggy past: the greater the broguing (number of holes), the less formal the shoe. Brogues are your go-to smart shoes. They won’t cover the über-relaxed or the über-smart end of the scale, but they’ll do for pretty much everything in between. And some manufacturers are now making these shoes with light foam and cork soles, meaning they’re a great choice for summer months.
These days a pair of low-top trainers is a must have. They’re ideal for days when you’ll be doing a lot of walking and want to be comfortable, but they’re also becoming increasingly smart, and a genuinely viable option now with a suit. When kept well, they provide a great casual look that can still appear smart and stylish, and if you’re not sure what colour to go for, choose white as a classy, solid and safe option. Make sure you look after them well, though, to keep them from looking scuffed and tatty.
Certainly the oldest form of footwear on this list (possibly in the world) and showing no signs of disappearing after making a big come back over recent years, it’s the slipper-like espadrille. It’s comfortable, moulds to the foot and its best feature? It’s incredibly breathable and perfect for hot weather. Granted, you may not get a huge amount of wear out of them in a British summer, but they are perfect for sunny holidays as they’re also light and pack flat. They’re a very relaxed look and great for the beach.
Chukka boots have largely shaken their military background to become a more elegant and refined option. With no chunky bits making you like you’ve just walked off a building site or down a mountain, they are simple, informal ankle boots that are great in the cold weather and can happily be paired with a suit. In fact, until the mid 19th century, the footwear of choice for a suit was a pair of boots, and this style is once again becoming popular with the return of vintage fashion. Think of them like a much smarter pair of trainers that can help to dress down an ensemble that risks looking too smart for the occasion. For a more relaxed chukka look, consider going for a soft suede-style desert boot; they’ll still look smart but with an added air of informality.
Finally we come to the most comfortable, practical end of the list. Running trainers are designed for comfort and foot care and you’ll be sorry not to have a pair of these on hand when you’re rocking your comfortable casual look. Don’t go too heavy on the branding or the patterning, but trainers are a great opportunity for colour, so do consider bright interesting colours for a strong street look. If you go for white, remember to look after them well or they’ll quickly look old and dirty. For a more conservative look, go with a navy or grey, which will go with pretty much everything. If you’ll only be using your running shoes for, well, running – prioritise performance over everything. There is no substitute for a well-built pair of men’s running shoes that fit you well, even if they’re not the most stylish item in your wardrobe.
A good pair of shoes should make our feet feel good as well as making us feel good too, and each of these styles will do just that. Taken together they’ll cover you for almost any occasion in an ever-changing sea of fashions. They say you can tell a lot about a man from his shoes, so why not reveal a few more sides to your personality?